Mexican Creme Brulee
The main difference between creme brulee and caramel custard is that the former is made with cream and has the sugar crusted on top; the latter is made with milk and has sugar caramelized into a syrup at the bottom of the baking cup.
Creme brulee must be baked very carefully and slowly, or it will not reach its proper perfect semi-flowing state. You can't do it in standard custard cups; much better are shallow (an inch or so deep) glass or ceramic ramekins or au gratin dishes. They also have to be straight-sided, so there's no thin rim of custard to burn when you blast the sugar topping.
I strongly recommend you get hold of Ronald Reginald's Vanilla Bean Marinade for this. It's a great vanilla created by Chef Warren LeRuth and made here in New Orleans. The actual vanilla beans in the bottle not only give flavor but those appealing vanilla bean flecks.
- 4 heaping Tbs. light brown sugar
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 Tbs. Ronald Reginald's Vanilla Bean Marinade (or some other top-class, powerful vanilla)
1. The first step is not essential, but does give an extra measure of elegance. Spread the brown sugar out, breaking all the lumps, on a big plate. Put it into the microwave oven for 10 minutes at 10 percent power, then let it cool for 30 minutes. This will remove the excess moisture from the brown sugar and keep it from turning to syrup when you blast it later.
2. The best utensil for baking creme brulee is one of those air-insulated square baking pans. If you don't have one, you can get the same effect by setting a dishtowel in the bottom. Place the baking dishes in the pan and hold ready.
3. Combine 1/4 cup of cream and the egg yolks in a metal bowl, and whisk to blend well. Stir in the sugar until nearly dissolved.
4. Put the rest of the cream into a small saucepan and heat it over medium heat until wisps of steam start appearing. (Don't boil even a little.)
5. Shake the bottle of vanilla-bean marinade vigorously, then measure the vanilla into the warm cream. Stir, then pour the warm cream slowly into the metal bowl while whisking.
6. Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a big measuring cup. Pour the custard into the baking dishes.
7. Pour hot water (it's okay to just get it out of the faucet) into the pan until it's halfway up the sides of the baking dishes. Put the pan into the preheated 325-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.
8. Remove the dishes from the pan and set out to cool for a half hour, then refrigerate for at least three hours, or as long as a day.
9. When ready to serve, preheat the broiler. (Or the broil feature of the toaster oven, which works better for this than you might imagine.) Sprinkle enough brown sugar on top of each custard to completely cover, and run them under the broiler for about 30 seconds--until the sugar melts. You might want to turn the dishes so that this happens uniformly.
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